Former assistant district attorney expected to take plea in bribery case

BROWNSVILLE — A former Hidalgo County assistant district attorney charged with making a false statement to authorities in a bribery investigation over immigration detainee rosters is expected to take a plea agreement in the next 45 days.

Cynthia Alanis, 27, of McAllen, faces one federal count stemming from a bribery investigation in which her brother Roel Alanis, 39, is charged with two counts involving conspiracy to commit bribery of a public official.

The former ADA was taken into custody in February after a federal grand jury returned an indictment against her under seal. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, plus a three-year term of supervised release.

The charging document alleges that Cynthia Alanis made a materially false statement and representation to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Professional Responsibility, to Special Agent Benjamin Elizondo, by stating she did not receive or know about any immigration detainee roster lists given to the Alanis law firm.

Prosecutors allege that Alanis purportedly knew she had previously received detainee roster lists and also knew of such lists given to the law firm.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Alanis’ attorney Oscar Vega asked the court for a 45 day continuance in order to facilitate the final plea agreement.

“My client is an attorney. She needs to resign, turn in her bar card. She’s got to close up a few cases and she has to be able to resign before we enter a plea,” Vega told presiding U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera, Jr.

The government’s prosecutor did not object to the continuance but suggested that some of the pending matters “could have and should be” finished.

Vega told the court, “She has been an attorney for a couple of years. This would be the end of her career,” stating that the continuance would cause no harm.

Olvera granted the continuance but asked attorneys to notify the court if the plea agreement is finished prior to the deadline. The case is currently set for a final pretrial conference on Nov. 3 and jury selection on Nov. 16.

Alanis’ brother Roel is set for a final pretrial conference on Nov. 3, with jury selection on Nov. 9.

In separate proceedings, Benito Barrientez, 42, of Lyford; Exy Adelaida Gomez; 42, of Los Fresnos; and Damian Ortiz, 30, are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery of a public official, bribery of a public official (by corruptly giving/offering), and bribery of a public official (by corruptly receiving/accepting) as part of an alleged bribery scheme.

According to court records, Barrientez and Ortiz were employed at the Willacy County Regional Detention Center as a classification clerk and a senior program director. Gomez worked as a corrections officer at the El Valle Detention Facility in Raymondville.

All three are accused of using their positions to obtain immigrant detainee roster lists from El Valle and the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos to be provided to Roel Alanis in exchange for payment.

Charges stated that the lists contain names, dates of birth, country of origin, and A-numbers, which the attorney would then use to visit detained immigrants for the purpose of hiring his law firm to represent the detainees.

Alanis is also accused of instructing his sister and others to do so, according to court records.

Barrientez and Ortiz were re-arraigned in February on written plea agreements. Both were scheduled to be sentenced on April 29. However, court records indicate that proceedings are ongoing.